How port congestion impacts your delays

A congested port is a real logistic bottleneck causing time, money, and more expensive inventory to be stuck in transit. Here’s what you can do about it.

By Fotini Tseroni

August 24, 2021

In transit blog_HowPortCongestionImpactsYourDelays

Port congestion can be a key issue, especially within this year, with ports adding significant delay times. 

Right now, major transshipment hubs around the world are facing port disruptions and a growing number of vessels waiting at anchorage.

California congestion nears new high while China’s Ningbo-Zhoushan port - one of the world’s largest and busiest ports - had been partially closed for more than a week. 

This is adding to shipping delays and causing more pressure to global supply chain professionals over the early days of the peak shipping season.

On Thursday (19.08), there were 31 containerships at anchor in San Pedro bay waiting to access Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, according to MarineTraffic data.

MarineTraffic Data

At the same time, the situation in East China is also causing concerns. On that same day (Thursday 19.08), there were 59 containerships off Ningbo waiting to dock. This is because the critical container terminal at the Port of Ningbo, Meishan, closed on 11.08 after one worker was found to be infected by COVID-19.

Many shipping firms, including the leading container line Maersk have been diverting their vessels to other terminals and ports to avoid costs and further delays.

It was the second time this year that China suspended operations at one of its key ports. The first one was the closure of the Yantian port in Shenzhen in late May for about a month.

In such times, it is important to be able to understand the impact of port congestion in selecting each service route. If ocean freight isn’t delivered on schedule, all other plans can be at risk and costs skyrocket.

Related: Signs that your shipment is going to be delayed

Moving goods by sea comes with uncertainty and risks. From COVID-19 disruptions to the Suez blockage and other unexpected events, there are so many variables that can influence whether or not a containership leaves port in time, or a container reaches its end destination on its delivery due date.

Related: Predicting disruptions in the supply chain 

However, shippers and forwarders can reduce the uncertainty and the risks both in terms of direct costs (i.e idle assets and demurrage), as well as costs related to poor service i.e. customers choosing alternative providers due to poor service.

Having improved in-transit shipment visibility and by fusing port congestion data into the planning process, allow for better planning of shipments via more efficient routes, while being aware of additional delays ahead, allow for faster response and better proactive management.

How to identify and avoid cargo delays in advance

With the most detailed mappings of ports, anchorages and berths in the world, MarineTraffic has come up with a tool that can provide professionals with useful and timely information on major ports and anchorages, created mainly by using past behaviour to forecast the future.


Our solution calculates the actual anchorage and port operational time per ship class, on a weekly basis and also allows access to real-time wait times and operational times.

Delay Risk Alert

We’ve recently introduced another feature that allows our users to get notified when a vessel is predicted to be delayed to reach a defined port more than a specified number of hours, when compared to a defined planned ETA. 

In other words, this alert informs the user of potential arrival delays. You can learn all about the Arrival Delay Risk Notification here.

If you want to find out more about port congestion solutions, read the guide below.

Free Guide Understanding Port Congestion MarineTraffic Banner
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Fotini Tseroni

Fotini Tseroni

Content Writer at MarineTraffic

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